Food Programme

BBC Radio 4

Arts, Food

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Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


Britain and the Ready Meal

February 2nd, 2014

Episode 371 of 661 episodes

Ready meals divide Britain, some love them, others think they're a problem for our health and wellbeing and a major culprit in de-skilling us in the kitchen. In the last four decades we've helped lead the way in the ready meal's innovation and in its consumption. We're now Europe's biggest consumers of the "prepared meal". All of this came into sharp focus with the horsemeat scandal. A 100pc horsemeat lasagne came to symbolise the problems and anxieties of allowing others to cook our meals for us. As a result some frozen ready meals were consigned to the history books, never to be seen in a frozen cabinet again, and manufacturers reported a big drop in sales. That's not the full picture however. In 2014 we're seeing the continued rise and rise of the premium chilled ready meal, the "posh" answer to the Italian, Indian and Asian frozen options. What does this trend tell us about our ongoing, and sometimes guilt-filled, romance with the ready meal? Who's buying all of these ready meals anyway? Sheila Dillon visits high-end ready meals manufacturer Charlie Bigham whose business is growing in double digit figures. Sheila also hears from a sociologist (Miriam Glucksmann) about our relationship with the ready meal. Meanwhile Arabella Weir puts the ready meal in the context of more of us having to feed our families on a tight budget. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced in Bristol by Emma Weatherill.

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